The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is a milestone. Implementation will be the biggest test
At COP15, 196 countries reached an agreement for new global goals and targets, which - if met - can reverse or halt biodiversity loss by 2030. Implementation starts now.
In the early hours of 19 December, 196 countries reached an agreement for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in the plenary that opened at 3 am in Montreal’s Palais des congrès. While the plenary was tense, its outcome was a breakthrough. “After four years of work we have now reached the end of our journey”, said The COP President, Huang Runqiu, as he opened the plenary. “We have a package which can guide us to work together to halt and reverse biodiversity loss”.
At sunrise, a snow-covered, crisp morning in Montreal saw the start of a new day with a sense of hope for the planet. This is not because the new global framework is perfect - it is not - but because it opens a path for the protection, restoration, and management of biodiversity worldwide. “The Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework is a major win for our planet and for all of humanity, charting a new course away from the relentless destruction of habitats and species”, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement released later on 19 December. With its four goals and 23 targets, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework provides a direction of travel and an impetus to work hard on implementation.
The overarching goal of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 from a 2020 baseline.
The headline target of protecting 30% of land and marine areas by 2030, known as 30x30, features in Target 3. This target was high on the negotiations agenda from the start of the conference. Currently 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected. The framework also includes a target to reduce extinction risk by 2030.
Recognition of Indigenous territories and practices runs through the text, as with the recognition of the contributions of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and the inclusion of their voices in decision-making. The International Indigenous Forum for Biodiversity (IIFB) celebrated the COP15 outcome. The realities on the ground are different, however. The rights of Indigenous Peoples are not recognized in many countries. Implementation would need to address these challenges at local and regional levels. “Let us move swiftly towards implementation, build meaningful partnerships, and ensure adequate and direct access of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to resources to ensure that we achieve the ambition set out in this Framework”, was a key message from IIFB in a press release.
Target 15 requires large companies and financial institutions to assess and disclose their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity by 2030. Target 18 requires countries to eliminate and reform subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity Target 19 requires the mobilization of funding from public and private sources to 30 billion US dollars to be raised annually.
While reduction of the use pesticides received no mention, a monitoring framework was agreed. Monitoring is necessary for tracking and assessing progress. The previous Aichi Targets were not met partly because of a lack of monitoring. The details of the monitoring framework will be developed at the next COP16 hosted by Türkiye in 2024.
COP15 has seen an unprecedented engagement of civil society. In particular, businesses and the finance sector ran an impressive campaign asking governments for ambition and strong regulations. More than 330 companies and investors called on governments to strengthen Target 15 and helped drive the historic agreement. In a previous blog written before the closing plenary of COP15 with Bethan Laughlin, Senior Policy Specialist, ZSL, we documented the momentum created by business and the finance sector. Business for Nature petitioned for a strong Target 15. They asked for mandatory requirements for large businesses and financial institutions to assess and disclose their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity by 2030 and to reduce their negative impacts on biodiversity by half.
While there were concerned about the number of fossil fuel companies lobbying at the UN Climate Change conference COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, the business engagement at COP15 for Biodiversity was a model of non-party engagement at a negotiation focused COP. The primary function of observers during key negotiations is to ask for ambition, put pressure on governments, hold them accountable, and commit to support a strong outcome. In doing so forward-looking businesses present at COP15 signaled that they stand ready to be key players for implementation. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework sends a strong signal to businesses that disclosures of impacts and dependencies on biodiversity are expected. It also asks for the elimination or reform of subsidies that harm biodiversity. The Business for Nature’s statement on COP15 outcomes sums it up clearly: Target 15 “will help reset the rules of our economic and financial systems”.
For the Global Biodiversity Framework, the biggest test will be to put the words into action and to turn ambition into impact. “We don’t need to wait two years, implementation starts now” said Manuel Pulgar Vidal, who addressed the COP in his role as the action agenda champion in the closing plenary of the High-Level Segment. “After the end of this COP, we have to implement with a whole of society approach”, he added.
For businesses and the finance sector, it will be crucial to keep the momentum created at COP15. In a whole of society approach, the role of businesses and the finance sector will shift from influencing the negotiations to acting with ambition. The test now is to take part in implementation.
Idil Boran is professor of applied environmental governance and faculty fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University, in Toronto, Canada. At York University. Professor Boran serves as Associate Director of CIFAL York, a leadership training centre affiliated with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). She also holds an external affiliation as a non-resident associate researcher with the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS). Professor Boran’s research focuses on global environmental multilateralism and the mobilization of cities, regions, businesses, and civil society organizations for action in the nexus of climate, biodiversity, and health. With 10 years of experience at the UN Climate Change meetings as an observer, Professor Boran has attended COP27 Sharm El Sheikh as York University’s head of delegation and is attending COP15 as the lead of a team of correspondents from York University for Global Policy.
Image credit: Author's own.